Forensic science is the use of scientific methods or expertise to investigate crimes or examine evidence that might be presented in a court of law. Forensic science comprises a diverse array of disciplines, from fingerprint and DNA analysis to anthropology and wildlife forensics. Though they represent varied disciplines, all forensic scientists face a common set of challenges. How do you ensure that forensic methods produce reliable results? How do you communicate findings to a jury or other nonexperts in a way that is accurate and understandable? How do you keep up with new technology without falling behind on casework? Meeting these and other challenges is critical to ensuring that forensic science remains a powerful force in support of justice and public safety.
NIST is working to strengthen forensic practice through research and improved standards. Our efforts involve three key components:
We conduct scientific research in several forensic disciplines, including DNA, ballistics, fingerprint analysis, trace evidence, and digital, among others. We provide physical reference standards and data that help forensic laboratories validate their analytical methods and ensure accurate test results.
We also support CSAFE, a NIST Center of Excellence in Forensic Science, which is working to develop new statistical methods for use in evidence examination
We co-chaired, with the Department of Justice, the National Commission on Forensic Science, which formulated recommendations for the U.S. Attorney General on matters such as accreditation requirements for forensic science service providers.
We administer the Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC), which is facilitating the development of science-based standards and guidelines for a broad array of forensic disciplines.